Thinking the unthinkable, predicting the unpredictable

The spin these days is that all of these disasters — 9/11, Iraq Insurgency, New Orleans flood — were both unthinkable and unpredictable.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

These were all thought of and predicted — way in advance. I can name at least a dozen private (and public) sector firms that spend all of their waking hours dreaming up stuff like this. Not only was all this foreseeable, but its the subject of deep and regular analyses by some very, very bright people.

Indeed, from the office of strategic planning in the Pentagon, to risk management officers in Re-insurance companies to capital preservation specialists at Futures trading firms to doctors who specialize in pandemics at the NIH, all sorts of these "what-could-go-wrong" analyses occurs everyday. Even Wal-Mart plans distribution and routing strategies around all kinds of planned and sudden unplanned weather interruptions (see our earlier discussion). 

On Wall Street, bigger funds consider the "What-if" scenarios all the time.  I have participated in stress-testing asset pools with funds running 100s of billions of dollars:  What happens if a Nuke goes off in DC, if China invades Taiwan, if various heads of different States are assassinated (including the US President and/or VP), if the Royal House of Saud falls. Nukes are fun, cause there are so many scenarios — in addition to the dirty bomb problems, there’s what if N. Korea accidentally blows up a weapon, if Israel nukes Iran, if Russia admits 5 bombs are unaccounted for. Then there’s the accidental US silo disaster, including various alternative misinterpretations (i.e., accident, terrorist, Russian or Chinese espionage, etc.)

All of this is called strategic planning. Up until recently, it was something that was not only carried out by the private sector and the military, but also at he highest levels of US government. Lately, it seems to have become a lost art.

My personal theory for a lot of what has gone wrong over the past few years is that ideology (i.e., Neo-Con) and faith-based belief systems (insert your choice here) have replaced elbow grease, deep thought, and long term strategizing as the methodology of implementing policy.

Its apparent in the anti-intellectual bend of much of the White House. Is it a surprise that pseudo-science is challenging Science? Not if you have been paying any attention.

The bottom line is that this distasteful, difficult stuff — planning, strategizing, executing —  matters. It matters to the nation, its population and ultimately, to their safety from all manners of ordinary, natural and extra-ordinary man-made disasters.

This is one of the few times I get to admonish the public and exhort members of both political parties with words such as these:   

Figure it out — or die.

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  1. scorpio commented on Sep 22

    and yet all asset classes — stocks, bonds, real estate, commodities, gold — extended. is it the complacency u note in your piece or 3 years of accomodation by Greenspan. a little of both, i guess. Pax Americana — if there ever was such a thing — coming undone

  2. john m commented on Sep 22

    I think that, once again, you’ve hit the nail on the head. This is precisely the fruit of ideology and non-Science. Excellent post. This continues to be one of the best sites on the web. Not just one of the best blogs, but one of the best sites, period.

  3. Brian commented on Sep 22

    Yeah, these faith-based fools will be the death of us all. Any hope for empiricism making a comeback?

  4. CorpExec commented on Sep 22

    It baffles me — why couldn’t the majority of Americans see the detrimental effects of the Bush Administration coming?

    As a corp executive, I’ve hired many, many people over the years. Bush came across as an intellectual light-weight right from the beginning.

    What large Corporation could you see Bush running? GE/MSFT/XOM/WMT? Faith is insufficient when you must review hundreds of reports, deal with thousands of outcomes, manage finances, people, inventory, production, marketing, etc.

    Somewhere along the way, I think the Bush Administration forgot that in their perpetual campaign, where every speech, every policy directive, every change is politically driven, that they have to find time to actually get down to the nuts-and-bolts of managing the Federal Government. What a disaster.

    As a case in point Barry: John Snow at Treasury. In the event of a banking meltdown or a dollar crisis, Snow will make Mike Brown of FEMA look like a genius. Read around the web Why doesn’t Wall Street demand competence from this Administration?

  5. scorpio commented on Sep 22

    CorpExec: they havent demanded it because up to now it hasnt been required. Bush the “useful fool” who somehow managed to connect w the middle while robbing them and the poor blind and delivering Corporate America — most particularly the CEO class — everything they ever wished for. there is no longer much of a future in this country for anyone except the top 1% and the next 9% who cater to them. even as this folly has been exposed in Iraq and New Orleans, there is no alternative construct to interpret events as Dems are prostrate, supine as wealth concentrates ever more. only question is whether there will be a Keynes to clean up Greenspan et al’s mess.

  6. Hondo commented on Sep 22

    What a bunch of liberal biased trash!!! Your stress testing example shows little thought. Just because things are stress tested and fat tails determined doesn’t lead to a prediction of a fat tail event. How many times have you stressed tested and then invested for the fat tail? I assume your comment “at least a dozen private (and public) sector firms that spend all of their waking hours dreaming up stuff like this” implies that as they dreamed they also predicted. A dozen people dreaming is hardly a strong statistical indicator. One would have to know the dreamers track record of dreams leading to prediction that end up being correct.

    Faith has nothing to do with the prediction of the events you discussed nor does it have anything to do with your buzz “strategic planning. The secretary at the White House knows more of that than you could ever remember. But by your tone you certainly, along with other post, sound biased and bigoted. From someone who sounds like he so much want to be consider an enlightened one, you actually come across as unintelligent, which may or may not be the case but your post certainly shows lack of clear thinking, analysis but is full of bias and bigotry.

  7. ReveBM commented on Sep 22

    I think you guys are wrong to place this all at the feet of the White House. I think in today’s world individuals have to step up themselves and strategize for themselves and their own families, whether in how they allocate their 401(k) plans (I allocate only 25% of mine to US equities and bonds, my personal prediliction), look for work, manage their careers or prepare for disasters. There is a decent college-textbook type publication available free as pdf on the FEMA website (“Are You Ready, A Citizen’s Guide to Disaster Preparedness” – it’s 220+ pages/20MB pdf). They say in the introduction that bureaucracies can set up a framework but that ideally citizens can do much more (the whole bottom of the triangle in their diagram) to ready themselves, with some preparations being fairly simple.

    I am not looking forward to a genius at the top of a bureaucracy to micromanage down how to deal with all of these things. That’s the route to having us all have bar codes slapped on our heads.

    As for Bush being a lightweight, just keep repeating that mantra to yourselves. “Evil” Rumsfeld & Cheney are not lightweights, and I don’t see that in Bush (I look beyond the West Texas twang); the unchanging nature of your perspectives will not enable you to forsee history passing you by.

  8. takarra commented on Sep 22

    these quotes are great why to go on all of your work.

  9. dcbob commented on Sep 22

    I could not agree with you more. Some combination of religious and secular ideology has become quite prevalent in some parts of society where they did not previously seem to be so widespread.

    However, I wonder about three other possible trends that might be contributing to the decline in serious strategic planning.

    One is that society (on regional, national, and global levels) has become sufficiently complex sufficiently rapidly that it has outstripped the existing regulatory mechanisms. If real, such a trend would complement the problems caused by a secular ideology that dismisses any need for regulation.

    A second is that many people may feel that the trend toward increasing complexity will inevitably lead to disaster, so there is no point in trying to avoid it. If real, that feeling would complement the views of religious fundamentalists who forsee doom as a consequence of the decline of religion or the overweaning pride of Man or the frankinsteinian ambitions of evil scientists or whatever other myth they subscribe to.

    A third possible trend is some kind of generalized decline in public ethics, which certaintly seems to have taken hold in the political and corporate worlds. It does seem that many erstwhile conservatives on K Street, Wall Street, and Main Street have come to believe that the main benefit of government and business is the maximum extraction of private rents from a public concern. It’s hard to disentangle that trend from the others, but it’s also hard to ignore the remarkable level of personal irresponsibility that one sees not just in the President but in so many other functionaries who claim to adhere to traditional conservative values. It contrasts quite strongly with the irritatingly do-gooder personalities of many of my friends on the left and even with the attitudes of the kind of moderate conservatives who invariably used to fill the important staff-level jobs in government.

  10. CorpExec commented on Sep 22

    To ReveBM:

    > Not looking forward to a aenius at top of bureaucracy.

    Why not? That shocks me. The Feds provide incredibly necessary services: national defense, long-term infrastructure investments, and referee of last resort in many cases. Not only is it vital, but is absolutely essential that very smart people be in critical management positions. Bush’s management failure has been a near religious inability to learn from facts on the ground. And a near pathological inability to stand up to his party by A) Firing incompetents B) Taking policy turns C) Vetoing spending from the Republican led Congress. These actions suggest to me that Bush is leading on faith and not on logic.

    There is no question that Rumsfeld & Cheney and many others within the Bush Admin meet many peoples criteria (including mine) of being very smart. As for Bush himself, you must be confused. It isn’t just “twang”. Some of the smartest folks I’ve met have twangs/tics/moles/you name it. Superficial observations are obviously foolish as measurements of intelligence.

    Arms-length observations that are relevant include: clear examples of rigorous, structured logical thought leading to reasoned conclusions. Rumsfeld demonstrates these traits in nearly every public outing. Cheney demonstrates these traits. Bush, on the other hand, rarely demonstrates critical thinking abilities in his public speeches. You may think this is a matter of perception — where a listener’s prejudices apply — fair enough. But I will tell you flat out — that many of my acquaintances (both left and right alike) would easily consider hiring Rumsfeld&Cheney as CEOs — but would laugh at Bush in the role.

    A team made of brilliant players led by a bush-league coach isn’t going to win the superbowl.

  11. ReveBM commented on Sep 22


    I will admit that Snow has not seemed impressive, particularly with comparison to Rubin. Why hasn’t the Transportation Secretary ever been fired? Some good people such as Wolflowitz have left…

    Republican spending has been out of control…I don’t like that either.

    I guess I don’t directly perceive your own disdain of Bush’s lingo, but I think it drives many others in the media.

    Two other things. I assume you may admire the Sr. Bush for his thinking/strategic abilities, but as I recall Late in the Reagan/Sr. Bush period a lot of talented people left Washington and that the remaining staff in Bush’s term and that someone commented that the White House had the atmosphere of one of the “dumbest country clubs” in America.

    Also, assuming you might have considered Clinton to be a brilliant strategist/policymaker, which if any of his policies have stood the test of time? I’ll give you Rubin, I loved Rubin.

    One policy which “W” Bush has been pushing which I like, is – It looks like we may be building domestic nuke plants again soon.

  12. Davos Newbies commented on Sep 22

    Avoiding the difficult stuff in the White House

    Barry Ritholtz:

    My personal theory for a lot of what has gone wrong over the past few years is that ideology (i.e., Neo-Con) and faith-based belief systems (insert your choice here) have replaced elbow grease, deep thought, and long term strategizin…

  13. donna commented on Sep 22

    There is a genius at the top of the bureacracy – Rove. It’s just that he’s a totally Machiavellian genius. Not that I would expect Hondo or ReveBM to have any idea who Machiavelli was, or to have actually read “The Prince”. it’s a short book, guys – give it a try.. Then you might understand the Bush administration and stop praising them. Or, prehaps, try picking up a newspaper and actually look at the state of the world today.

    Anyway, yes, I agree. Lack of a proper education in this country is absolutely killing us today. It astonishes me how many people think ideology and faith can solve all our problems. A little reading of history would quickly disuade them of that notion. But we don’t teach history anymore, not in the cause and effect way. We teach “social studies”. My own kids say they’ve learned more watching the History Channel than in most of their “history” classes. We teach kids to memorize dates instead of knowing what really happened.

    Hondo and ReveBM, your attacks are just silly. Bring some facts next time, k? The people who are being most hurt by this adminstration have no Internet access and wouldn’t know how to download a PDF if they tried. They don’t HAVE 401Ks. Not everyone is as privileged as your are, and to not understand that is moronic.

  14. Joel Files commented on Sep 22

    Great observation. I wish everyone could recognize the mental laziness and fuzzy thinking that pass for planning in the Shrub administration. Love your site.

  15. camille roy commented on Sep 22

    Barry I love your site too. Thanks for the reality-based commentary.

    I think the country started to go seriously off the rails during the spurious impeachment proceedings against Clinton, and the wasted millions spent investigating his affair with Monica. There the Republicans showed themselves to be committed to spin and moralistic posturing with no concern for the *ethics* inherent in solid governance.

    I have become more of a leftie in the years since, but at that time I was a loyal employee of >10 years at one of the leading technology corporations. Our CEO was brilliant. I remember looking at our CEO and wondering who in their right mind would trash a brilliant executive for a private affair. People’s Lives and Livelihoods Depend on Good Governance. What was the matter with people? Well now we see that there is a price to be paid.

    I think the Dems need to sieze on this as an issue of basic ethics. It’s not only greed, cronyism, outrageous over the top pork barrel spending, an addiction to deficit spending & war fantasies (Iraq) etc ad nauseum that distinguishes the Republicans. It’s that they’ve used their anti-government ideology to justify horrible management in every respect *other* than political spin. This has had tragic, indeed unforgiveable consequences.

    I think all Republicans owe their country an apology and need to work off their debt to society by
    1. reforming their actions *and* their values.
    2. learning to tell and live with truth rather than spin.

  16. ReveBM commented on Sep 22


    Have read Machiavelli, but alas in your worldview must have learned nothing from it…

    Read the WSJ every day, gag when I even scan Times headlines.

    Cheap shots are the stuff of life, are they not?

  17. jon smith commented on Sep 22

    The idea that people on the left are “reality-based” in any way, shape or form is side-splittingly funny. Ever try to have a reality based discussion with someone on the left about race and crime? How about genetics and IQ? How about gender differences? Or illegitmacy rates? Or teachers unions and school spending? Or Titile IX? Racial Quotas? Immigration?

    The secular crowd has its own gospels called feminism, multiculturalism and big government. Deviation from these fundamentalisms is punished severely.

  18. ReveBM commented on Sep 22

    Camille Roy

    Which “Republican values” specifically would you reform or change, and

    Isn’t deficit spending a problem for both parties in the last 30 years?

  19. rram commented on Sep 22

    What I find to be more telling, in a way, than the response fiasco, are the reports that federal funding for levee maintenance and improvement programs had been drastically reduced already during the current administration and that they had even been seeking further cuts; despite the fact it has been well known that New Orleans was a disaster waiting to happen someday. Certain right-wing economists seem to take great pleasure in Euro-bashing but I don’t think even they could honestly ever envision a scenario wherein the Dutch government short-changes dike maintenance in order to fund tax cuts for the rich.

  20. camille roy commented on Sep 22

    “Which “Republican values” specifically would you reform or change?”

    For a start,
    – Dump ideologies
    – Embrace empiricism.
    E.g dump neo-con wars and war plans.
    E.g. dump supply side economics.
    E.g. dump tax cuts as a bandaid for all economic and social problems.

    This would be an excellent start, but it is minimal. Of course more moves are necessary.
    – Base policy on research not the wishes of the (rich) donor base.
    – Base communication with the public on a committment to honesty rather than spin.
    – Bring good faith (not ‘Christian’ spin!) back into politics.

    For example, research indicates that the intensity of hurricanes has soared in the last 30 years, and that fact is directly related to rising ocean temperatures. Would you trust this administration to investigate this, and if the most established and reputable scientists for the most part agree that this is global warming related, develop policies to mitigate global warming?

    Not in your life would this admin do this! They would pay off some industry researchers to give a show that would allow them to ignore any role global warming played. This type of ideology based mismanagement is nothing other than criminal. It is immoral. It is deadly.

    It must stop.

    Those of you who support this administration are guilty as well. Your political choices have moral consequences.

  21. nate commented on Sep 22

    meteor -> wasn’t this on SNL a while ago?

  22. jaz commented on Sep 22

    Most of us that are upset at Dubya’s administration in the way the Barry is are not “left.” We’re pragamatic, libertarian people who understand that you have to get your hands dirty if you want to get “stuff” done. And you have to get that “stuff” done without going over budget.

    Thanks for your comments. At least you’re willing to listen, give points where they’re due. Your point about a “genius” micromanager slapping bar codes on our heads is sophistic. Good executives don’t micro-manage, and it’s this administration who’s been fighting for the computerized Big Brother you’re afraid of. Rumsfeld didn’t get his Carnivore, and– why don’t you say it with me: thank goodness!

    As far as my contribution to the debate, I’d just like to put out something I’ve been told when “stuff” is overwhelming:

    “Faith can move mountains, but you might want to bring a shovel.”


  23. nate commented on Sep 22

    i have been coming in and out of this. someone may have written this already.

    it may pay to keep the gas tank in you car full of gasoline at the end of each day.

  24. jon smith commented on Sep 22

    Camille and Reve–did you guys take a wrong turn at DailyKos and end up here by mistake? Be honest now, you guys aren’t real, you are actually DNC dummybots who roam the Net polluting comment boards with boilerplate talkingpoints, right?

    Camille–if you really exist–thanks for demonstrating my point about the phoniness and hypocrisy of the “reality based” Left. Everyone else deals in bad faith and cynicism EXCEPT YOU!! You brave noble soul that speaks truth to power!!! You are just too good for this country and if everyone could just embrace your vision of peace and justice it would be UTOPIA! Priceless.

    Was it the bear hug embrace of empiricism by people like you the reason it took a conservative congress to reform welfare after 30 years of dependency and failure? How about longer jail sentences for criminals and more prisons cutting the crime rate? Care to consult the empirical record on that one? How about the other issues I mentioned above? You mentioned tax cuts and supply side econ, though I doubt you could define it. Guess what? The unemployment rate is at 4.9%. Revenues are surging. Global warming as the cause for hurricanes? Sorry sweetie, not even the Lefties at Slate were buying that one last week.

    Trust me when I tell you that you have your own ideological demons to slay and the empircal record is most definitely not an arrow in your quiver.

    Reveb–You talked about how superior Euro-values would never, ever, not in a million years allow a catastrophy like Katrina to take place. Huh. I guess you missed the heat wave that swept France in 2003-4 and killed about 10,000 people (most of them elderly and infirm) for lack of air conditioning. How’s that for compassion, preparedeness and humanitarianism?

    The sad thing about people like you two is that you really don’t see the resemblence between you and religious fundamentalists you despise. You are their mirror images. You preech (or in your case “Camille” screech) the virtues of tolerance over and over and over again and the first time someone disagrees with you, you label them a fascist. Some tolerance.

  25. Aaron commented on Sep 22

    Excellent post Barry (again) – even though a predicted major catastrophe may have a “statistically insignificant” probablility of occurring, it is the planning and practice for those “what if’s” that unfortunately has become a “lost art” due to budget constraints at federal, state and local levels IMHO.

  26. rebecca commented on Sep 22

    I am not sure that the religious as a group are responsible fr mantaining this system, though of course some are religious.

    It dates back many years, but I think it syrged with Rush and talk radio. It is faith based reality.

    It employs a slime machine that demonizes any opponent. Thus John McCain was a North Vietnamese agent. While not all patyicipated, one can see how it just flummoxed a guy to be accused of working for those who tortured him for years.

    The original source was a guy who conned the families of MIAs. He took money from them and their supporters promising their loved ones were alive. When McCain threw him out, he struck back and because it was convenient to believe it Rove released the Limbaighian hordes.

    These are not neo conservatives.

    They are individuals seeking deeper and deeper into madness. We start to see the demand for “faith based reality” in Iraq. It is the press who causes all problems, if they didn’t report bad news, then there wouldn’t be bad news. I don’t make this up. Read their blogs. Pointing ut that the south is dominated by Iranian connected militias or that corruption is killing the country is “treason.”

    There must be some psychological or philosophical term for this, external reality doesn’t exist, it’s all partisan game and if you can destroy the other side and all that’s left is you and your friends saying the same things you control reality.

    A more potent drg than LSD.

    With Katrina we see the pushing to the limit, this madness is coming to an end.

    I pray that the president can separate himself from those he used and who have usd him, leave this delusion and face things. I think that he is fundamentally better than they are, but they have played to his weakness.

    I hope to see him define them as “evil.”

  27. Brian commented on Sep 22

    I’ve got pretty much my entire net worth in the stock market (not just the US stock market) but I don’t worship Bush’s every mumble so I’m some kind of commie pinko liberal.

    I’m a capitalist. The Bushies are crony corporatists. If you don’t know the difference you don’t understand the free market at all. Put down the Kool Aid.

  28. camille roy commented on Sep 22

    A troll is a troll is a … so why bother responding? There’s just too much b.s. But I will address one item.

    This comment from troll, I mean ‘jon smith’, is a good example of how righties argue. They spit crap as if it’s logic. We’ll analyze this particular specimen of jon’s crap:

    “Global warming as the cause for hurricanes? Sorry sweetie, not even the Lefties at Slate were buying that one last week.”

    This in response to my comment:
    “research indicates that the intensity of hurricanes has soared in the last 30 years, and that fact is directly related to rising ocean temperatures.”

    First he twists my argument, so he can disagree with something I didn’t say. (Strawman fallacy, anyone?)

    So, to be clear, (jon you can take this really really slowly, and even read it more than once!),
    I said the *intensity* of hurricanes had increased.
    That, for those who know English, is not the same as arguing that “Global warming causes hurricanes.”
    These statements are simply unrelated.

    Now to the data. (Yes, jon, there is such a thing! And people who embrace empiricism rely on it! )

    Here is the link to a paper called
    “Increasing destructiveness of tropical cyclones over the last 30 years”,

    In this paper we learn that the proportion of category 4 and above hurricanes has DOUBLED in the last 30 years. The number of hurricanes has not changed. This hurricane season may well be a harbinger of worse to come, because ocean temps continue to rise.

    The author of this paper connects the dots re: global warming: “I find that the record of net hurricane power dissipation is highly correlated with tropical sea surface temperature, reflecting well-documented climate signals, including multi-decadal oscillations in the North Atlantic and North Pacific, and global warming. My results suggest that future warming may lead to an upward trend in tropical cyclone destructive potential, and — taking into account an increasing coastal population — a substantial increase in hurricane-related losses in the twenty-first century.”

    So, jon, there you are – smeared on the pavement. Dum*ass. Good thing immoral ignorant peeps like you are losing power fast.

    I won’t even bother to take on your absurd language – calling me ‘sweetie’! – and the folks at State ‘lefties’!. – such cluelessness is simply disgusting.

  29. Barry Ritholtz commented on Sep 23

    Anyone who thinks this is a matter of left versus right is missing the point entirely.

    This is an issue of whether or not your tax dollars are being spent in a fashion that generates a positive return for you as a citizen; whether the nations public policy is intelligent, efficient and effective. Whether you are being “protected and served” by your government.

    This is a function not of politics, but of public policy.

  30. rram commented on Sep 23

    jon smith–In the immortal words of Sergeant Hulka (in “Stripes”), “Lighten up Frances”. And by the way, hundreds of people in this country also die year after year during extreme heat waves and cold snaps and as far as I know, nobody is trying to pin that sad fact directly on Bush-not even a “DNC dummybot” like me. If you have ever been to Europe, you should know that it is not an “air-conditioned society” like we are. Outside of tourist hotels, it is not very common. The French may have been equally ill-prepared but it’s not as if they raided some pre-existing national air conditioning budget to fund tax cuts. And based on your attitude, I think it highly unlikely that you would support your tax dollars going towards air conditioning for the poor. Lastly, when attempting to demonize your fellow posters, you should at least make an effort to correctly identify your targets. I’m sure ReveBM is horrified that you accused him of being a liberal.

  31. muckdog commented on Sep 23

    Neo-cons? You throw that word around, and it takes the intellectual edge off your writing. The next thing you know, Michelle Malkin will link to you as just another liberal moonbat.

  32. Steve commented on Sep 23

    Good point to mention the need for hunch. Future is like crystal ball gazing that we can never be sure unless they have happened and if we are dedicated and be on the alert all the time, I am sure the situation, no matter how difficult it is and how hopeless it has become, if one is always on the alert and ready for difficult or even disastrous situaitons, things would still be not that bas if we are determined, dedicated and ready tofight back, I am sure there are still ways to overcome crises.

    I truly believe life is a fight, no matter you like it or not, you still have to face it no matter you are rich or poor, healthy or not healthy… get ready to bite the bullets and get prepared for a fight.

    Steve from the Himalaya

  33. Bruno D. commented on Sep 23

    Good post Barry, I found your blog recently, I’m from Canada (french canada, trying my best here :-P).

    But my goodness, I’m amazed by reading the comments here and hearing stuff about american politics over the news, how much almost every one in USA (apparently at least to an outsider) feels the need to paint everything black and white. Can’t you be left AND right on different issues? Ever heard of gray areas? Chris Rock said in one of his stand up, that anyone who makes up their mind before hearing the issue is an idiot. Not that I see him as an important polical/ideological figure (haha), but I think he sums it up well. Basicly anyone painting themselves as 100% democrat or 100% republican is an idiot to start with, that’s what it means, and I’m 100% in agreement with that :)

    It’s really sad to see everyone trying to depict the other side as the demon. Heck it’s sad to see the need for having “sides” in the first place.

    If there is one thing I can say I notice about USA politics is the lack of political diversity. We have such political diversity here in Canada, right now we have a minority government, along with three other strong parties competing against each other to seek votes. Some of them are mostly liberal, some of them mostly conservative, but none of them 100% anything.

    But you know what, I think the country has never been better (our government is posting big budget surplusses for example), simply because all parties feel the need to respect every opinion and consider every issue seriously, as it might be a way to reach more votes. So the last thing they want to do is turn any opinion into the devil, which seems to have become the national sport in US apparently.

    I believe this is mainly the problem in USA, you guys have lost those gray areas where it was acceptable to have a different opinion, now you’re stuck in a stalemate with two “sides”.

    I certainly hope the future will be brighter, but I was certainly not impressed by what’s been happening accross the border over the last couple years. The war, the economy, the foreign policy (or rather lack of haha), the arrogance over international institutions (UN, etc), etc etc.

    I think one phrases sums it up well, “When everybody thinks alike there’s not much thinking going on…”.

    Good luck to you all!

  34. BILL commented on Sep 23

    Figure it out or Die. Best possible phrase you could have used . Trouble is US gov’t pinheads have lost ability to figure anything , even a way out of a paper bag . Cept how to fill their pockets and drain ours. Not taking markets bet on an easy Rita either , judgment failed badly 4 weeks ago . Good article . Wow lots of response as well , is this a record ? 33 replies ?

  35. ReveBM commented on Sep 23

    RRam –

    Yes, I was getting around to being horrified. At least I got some mileage out of my “what Republican values would you like to change” – I may file that somewhere and try to come up with counterpoints.

  36. Tech Policy commented on Sep 23

    Barry Ritholtz is Shrill (again!)

    Read Thinking the unthinkable, predicting the unpredictable. Read the entire post there. As he says later in the comments: Anyone who thinks this is a matter of left versus right is missing the point entirely. This is an issue of whether or not your ta…

  37. camille roy commented on Sep 23

    Gotta deal with this one!

    “Camille Roy
    Which “Republican values” specifically would you reform or change, and
    Isn’t deficit spending a problem for both parties in the last 30 years?
    by: ReveBM | Sep 22, 2005

    Yo, ReveBM!
    Dude, didya notice that the only prez in the last 30 years to balance the budget was Clinton? I think he was a Democrat. Did you really forget this?

    Amazing how Republicans distort reality. Is that because Repub rhetoric is based on a reaction to what happened in the 60’s, when LBJ wanted social programs AND war, and we paid with high inflation for years?

    Well, welcome to the new (Republican!) version of same:

    George W. Bush has boosted total inflation-adjusted discretionary spending in his first term by 35.1 percent. To put that in context, chew on this: LBJ — the Texas legend who created the Great Society and, for all intents and purposes, the Vietnam War — only boosted discretionary spending 33.4 percent. What’s more, the gap between Bush and LBJ will only grow. De Rugy notes that the final outlays for fiscal year 2005 (the last budget signed in Bush’s first term) aren’t in yet.


  38. Wonderer commented on Sep 23

    Look at the responses in this thread. The acrid partisanship. The blinkered viewpoints. The bigotry masquerading as analysis. Were we always like this?

  39. camille roy commented on Sep 24

    “Look at the responses in this thread. The acrid partisanship. The blinkered viewpoints. The bigotry masquerading as analysis. Were we always like this?”

    The Republicans have control of every branch of govt. With that goes something called responsibility.
    I think the appropriate response to the catastrophic failures of policy characteristic of Republican rule is rage.

  40. Danielle commented on Sep 24

    As I read Bruno’s comment from Canada I couldn’t help but nod my head in agreement.

    I’m also a Canadian and I am also amazed by how black and white Americans are. The most frustrating part is that, as foreigners, all we can do is endure the error of your ways since more often than not you don’t even want to hear what anyone else has to say.

    But if you opened your eyes and stopped navel-gazing you’d see that many other countries have done great things that are worth looking into.

    Two issues many of us foreigners have most trouble with are the mounting religious fanatism and the extreme anti-socialist sentiment in America.

    First of all, how can so many of you even think of throwing Christian principles into politics when a huge amount of Americans practice another religion? And when you say God Bless America, does that include your Muslims, because if it does then why wouldn’t God bless Irak just as well?

    For many of us foreigners, your recent obsessions with McReligion is absurd and scary.

    As for socialism, to many of us foreigners, it is obvious that both capitalism and socialism can coexist. Capitalism is a must because people are industrious and competitive by nature. On the other hand, left to its own devices capitalism will rarely serve apparently unprofitable sectors that bring quality of life. That’s when social policy – as in socialism – kicks in.

    Finally, for many of us foreigners, it is so obvious that good ideas from both the left AND the right is what is needed to fix America.

  41. Justice Litle commented on Sep 24

    In my humble opinion, Republicans and Democrats are little more than two different flavors of the same kool-aid.

    I agree with the observation that the faith-based blindness on the right is roughly canceled out with PC-based blindness on the left. Remember Larry Summers ordeal at Harvard? Or consider the draconian smoking bans in California and NYC, or the rabid stance of environmental groups who believe that all forms of pollution are evil rather than the cost side of a cost / benefit analysis.

    With that said I think the current White House has failed miserably in a key area: they have valued loyalty over competence. When Bush was presented as an option, the logic went something like this: he is obviously not the smartest guy in the room, but he was supposedly s a leader who knows how to lead–which means surrounding himself with tough, competent people who are smart enough to make the key boots-on-the-ground decisions.

    Now we see, through all that’s happened, that Bush has failed in this implicit promise to surround himself with a competent team. By refusing to hold his leaders accountable for major mistakes (i.e. Rumsfeld’s disastrous calls on troop requirements in Iraq), he has shown lack of accountability. By selecting hand puppets like John Snow for Treasury, he has shown a willingness to blow off critical issues. By packing FEMA with cronies rather than leaders, he has shown gross irresponsibility mixed with incredible arrogance.

    I voted for Bush because it seemed clear to me that John Kerry couldn’t lead his way out of a paper bag. I supported Bush expecting that he knew his own strengths and weaknesses and would thus surround himself with a competent team, finding people with the necessary decision making skills and holding them accountable, as a leader is supposed to do.

    In my estimation, this is a much better formula than looking for a genius to try and run everything himself. The brilliant Jimmy Carter was an absolute disaster, Al Gore would have followed in his footsteps, and John Kerry suffered from the same intellectual arrogance combined with a lack of leadership capability.

    But Bush blew the formula. He didn’t have to be brilliant, he just had to show genuine leadership, combined with a willingness to value accountability over loyalty. That is where he fell down. But if we try to elect somebody brilliant in 2008 just because they are brilliant, we won’t necessarily be rectifying any of the problems we face.

  42. Kirk Weller commented on Sep 25

    It very much figures that you voted for Bush.

  43. Barry Ritholtz commented on Sep 25


    who are you addressing that to? I can’t tell from the order of the prior comments

  44. Jon H commented on Sep 26

    “But if we try to elect somebody brilliant in 2008 just because they are brilliant, we won’t necessarily be rectifying any of the problems we face.”

    Brilliant? I’d settle for competent. Bush isn’t, and he tolerates incompetence in his staff and appointees.

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